It’s been great seeing the Ghostbusters resurgence in the media. Not only with the release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but video games. We reviewed the asymmetrical multiplayer game, Spirits Unleashed, last year, so when the latest idea includes VR, we just had to give it a go. Unfortunately, some pretty nasty bugs turned our favorite fire station into a haunted house.
You might be wondering where this review has been, given that the game has been out for a month. Well, we’ve been patiently waiting for a patch to address a specific showstopper bug that’s been present since pre-launch. While utilizing cross-play between Quest 2 or 3 and the PlayStation VR2, audio on Sony’s platform will suddenly begin to shriek like a Class 2 Full-Roaming Vapor. Neither side can hear each other any longer, and audio can cut out entirely until the PlayStation 5 is rebooted. Audio problems happen, but this one is not only repeatable, but downright consistent. So much so, in fact, that it was reported on places like Reddit on launch day, and as we encountered, persists today. We’ll circle back to this in a moment, but let’s at least get into the game’s mechanics.
In terms of storyline, you work as part of the Ghostbusters franchise, San Francisco branch. When a call turns up a powerful spectral beast called the Ghost Lord, it’s up to you and your team to help put a stop to him and his cronies. You’ll strap up a proton pack with up to three additional friends, bust some ghosts, and uncover who the Ghost Lord is, and how he’s tied to a massive surge in spectral activity.
I have to give credit to the team for figuring out quite a few fun modes. While you might not find anything over the top here in terms of new mission types (these have a resemblance to other co-op modes), there’s a lot to like. For example, Harvester has you fixing a machine in order to capture ectoplasm to take back to HQ. In all, there are four missions to engage with, but through a free update there’s already been two more added, like Heist and Seek which has an intriguing PVP element behind it. Innovation can keep players playing, and you can see NDreams putting in the effort to grab our attention.
The best thing about VR is that it requires very little instruction. Firing a proton pack is as simple as grabbing it from your back, putting two hands on it, and letting it loose. Same with the ghost trap – grab, fire, and go. Your PKE meter lets you find your friends, objectives, and anything hidden in the environment, and it’s a single trigger pull away. VR makes things simple, and bustin’ ghosts will make you feel good.
Each of the ghost types you encounter (there are over 30 of them) has its own strengths and characteristics. A small pack of marshmallows will explode into tiny little Stay Puft dudes that have to be grabbed and physically removed from your pack, clothes, and equipment, giggling the entire time. Screeching medusa-like poltergeists fly around the room, as do bulbous red ghosts that remind me of a Haunter or Grapploct from Pokemon. You’ll bust these guys by, you guessed it, zapping them with your proton pack. This will in turn reduce a blue meter, at such time you can start really putting in the work. Pulling away from the direction the ghost is headed will slow it down, but will also increase the heat generated by your pack. Occasionally you’ll be given a prompt to issue forth a pulse (a “bosun dart”) from your pack, zapping the ghost and helping it along in its path towards your throw trap. It’s a real challenge to stop a ghost on your own, but teaming up feels good, encouraging coordination and timing as they whip around the room and hide in various places.
While the game advertises 34 ghosts, in reality, most of them are just color variations. Sure, they might have a different power or be slightly faster, but generally speaking, running the proton pack on full and keeping your feet in motion is enough to do the job. In truth, there’s enough meat on the bone where the repetition isn’t a big deal.
In many missions, you’ll eventually encounter a sub-boss. These folks usually have some sort of mechanic like speed, the ability to hide, additional ways to slime you, and more. When you do get slimed, you’ll recover in the best way possible – a high five. Approaching your teammates, you’ll clap hands, restoring your downed partner to service and putting them back to work. We did run into a bug where my proton pack wouldn’t reset, sparking the entire time until we eventually failed out, so there’s a little bit of work here to be done as well.
There are status windows in the station that list your statistics, revealing that there are 72 jobs, 38 equipment upgrades, 34 ghosts, and 18 costumes, though cosmetic purchase options hide around every corner. The jobs are doled out at the table, and an adjacent table holds your upgrades. These upgrades come from cash generated on mission completion, as well as a wrench currency that I’m not sure how I am earning. Most of them don’t give you new powers, but instead improve the ones you already have, albeit incrementally.
For example, it might allow your proton slinger to do more damage, or open the aperture wider on the trap. Like most VR games, it’s less about your points and stats, but your physical movements in the real / virtual world that matter more. This does mean the game can get a little repetitious as you go, especially with the same arsenal in tow on every job.
There is an odd choice that pervades the entire game, rearing its head at the most inopportune times. When there’s a new mechanic to learn or some refresher needed, the game will put the equivalent of a billboard in front of EVERYTHING. Your controls, enemies, and everything else will be tucked behind this highly obtrusive monstrosity until you dismiss it. Not to worry, though – like a class 1 ectoplasmic slime, it’ll be back and stuck to the screen soon enough.
Whether you are playing on PlayStation VR2 or Quest 2 or 3, the game delivers a heavily stylized game that really looks the part. The character models are bright and fun, peppered with little details. The Ecto-1 has never looked better, as does all of your equipment. The creatures are expressive and the sense of scale is fantastic. It also manages to stay rock solid on framerate, resulting in a nausea-free game. There are options to snap turn, smooth move, teleport, and vignette, or mix and match to get what you need.
Ghostbusters: Rise of the Ghost Lord is a great idea. Playing as a Ghostbuster recruit in VR is exactly what you’d have hoped for when you heard of this game, from the proton pack to the Ecto-1. Until a fix is discovered for the audio, however, the ghosts will continue to inhabit the streets of San Francisco, completely unrestricted.
We’ll keep our PKE meters out and our proton packs charged, ready to jump in when the game is ready for more bustin’. Stay tuned for our final review, and jump over to our Discord channel to chat about your experiences with the game.
Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.
Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.
Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 27 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).